Meta’s head of communications John Pinette leaves company

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The position is being covered on an interim basis while another former Facebook employee speaks out about the company’s political impacts.

John Pinette, the head of communications for Facebook’s parent company Meta, has left the position after more than two years.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Pinette announced his departure in an email to employees on Friday 7 January. He wrote: “I know the team will continue to thrive as you do some of the most important – and most difficult – work in communications.”

Pinette handled Facebook’s and now Meta’s external communications since joining in 2019. He previously served as vice-president of marketing and communications for Vulcan, a private company owned by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. He has also worked in communications with Microsoft and led communications for Google in Asia.

Vice-president of international communications Chris Norton will now cover Pinette’s role on an interim basis, a Meta spokesperson told Reuters.

“We are thankful for [Pinette’s] positive contributions during an intense and significant time in the company’s history, and we wish him well going forward,” the company added.

The spokesperson did not disclose why Pinette was leaving but cited Meta’s policy of not commenting on personal matters.

Facebook, the company that owns platforms including Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, rebranded as Meta towards the end of 2021. The change came as the company faced controversy from leaked internal research files shared by the Wall Street Journal in a project it called the Facebook Files.

In the same week that the company suffered a major global outage, whistleblower Frances Haugen sat down for an interview on US TV show 60 Minutes and then testified before a US Senate subcommittee.

Haugen is a former Facebook product manager and is reported to have copied tens of thousands of internal Facebook documents before leaving the company in May last year.

Speaking at the EU Parliament in November, Haugen praised the proposed Digital Services Act – a proposal to regulate online platforms on issues such as illegal content and algorithms – as a key chance to ‘safeguard democracy’. This act is due to be voted on this month after a similar proposal, the Digital Markets Act, received overwhelming support from EU lawmakers in December.

After Haugen, former Facebook director Katie Harbath is the latest to speak out about the impact social media can have on politics. One day after Pinette’s announcement, Harbath told the Wall Street Journal that social media will likely incubate future political violence unless governments and tech platforms intervene.

Harbath also spoke on CNN’s Reliable Sources about her old company and its role in democracy.

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